Monday, June 30, 2014

How to lose friends

In his infamous speech in Cairo in 2009 in which he attempted to appease the Muslim world, Pres. Obama said that "no form of government should be imposed on one nation by another." In other words, Western Democracy is not suitable for every country and so it would not be appropriate for the US to try to force democracy on anyone.  Yet, this is precisely what he did, and in doing so he has not only lost the US friends, but he has reduced America's influence and credibility in the world and especially in the Middle East.
For example, the Obama Administration dropped Pres. Hosni Mubarak, an ally of the US, like a hot potato as soon as there were demonstrations against him, the supposed reason was that he was a military dictator and the US wanted Egypt to adopt democracy.  So Mubarak was toppled, and there was a vote and the Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohammed Morsi won the election. But, one vote does not a democracy make.  Now the MB is an Islamic party whose avowed ideology is anti-Western and anti-American.  It was founded by Hassan al-Banna, whose ideology was full of hatred and vitriol against the US.  Yet, Obama was happy to accept and support a MB President in Egypt.  Did the US not know what was coming next?  Apparently the Egyptian people did, since they rose up and overthrew Morsi with the support of the Egyptian Army, and this led to the reinstatement of the military dictatorship and the former Gen. al Sisi is now Pres. al Sisi.  If you were al Sisi do you think you would be prepared to trust the US, knowing how they treated your predecessor Mubarak?  This complete mis-reading of the Egyptian situation and the support of the election of a totally anti-Western and in fact anti-democratic candidate, shows the stupidity and naievete of the Obama outlook on the world.  Obama backed the wrong horse and "lost" Egypt.
Obama is not the first American President who thinks that by putting pressure on Israel to make concessions to the Palestinians it will win him marks with the Arab world.  But, in fact it loses US credibility, because what the Arab world sees is that US commitment to its staunchest ally can be bought.  The US allies in the Arab world such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait andf the UAE realise that US support is not reliable.  Case in point, the US is negotiating with Iran over its nuclear program, that includes the development of high uranium enrichment that can only be used for weapons development.  Yet, the US continues for years with the Europeans, playing the Iranian delaying game.  The Gulf Arab States fear Iran, for good reason, and they see that if Iran does develop a nuclear weapon they may be the first in line to be intimidated and/or destroyed. .The Arab allies in the Middle East see US policy on Iran as weak and wavering, and in this respect they have the same views and interests as Israel.   When Pres. Obama commited the US to act if Syria crossed the "red line" of using chemical weapons against civilians, he then backed off that threat, and invited Pres. Putin of Russia to use his influence and power on Pres. Assad to obtain Syrian compliance.  But, in doing so Obama squandered the credibility of the Presidency and of the USA. The US has lost credibility as a strong ally in the Middle East. 
Iraq is a mess, that the US poured billions of dollars into, to obtain what?  A reliable US ally that was democratic?  Any schoolboy with knowledge of the Middle East could have told him that a democratic alliance betwen the Sunni and the Shia in Iraq would never last.  As soon as the Shia obtained a majority in the Iraqi Government, the Sunni refused to cooperate, and PM Maliki did not try to accomodate them.  Such a split was inevitable.  What is also inevitable is that the Kurds in Northern Iraq will break from the central Iraqi Government.  They have built up a strong autonomous region and have been waiting for the moment.  With the fall of the Sunni areas into the hands of the Islamist ISIS and the collapse of the American-trained and financed Iraqi Army, the Kurdish Peshmurga fighters have taken over effective control of Kirkuk and the northern oil fields.  Soon they will establish Kurdistan and they will be recognized by Israel, with whom they have had friendly relations for 50 years.  But, once again Obama is making a mistake, he is holding off giving support to the Kurds in the vain hope of saving or resuscitating Iraq.  Frankly a few air strikes won't do it.
We are left with a situation in former Iraq that an independent Kurdistan will be a positive outcome for Israel and the West, but the emergence of an Islamist Sunni state in central Iraq and an Iranian-controlled Shia Arab state in southern Iraq will be two negatives.  Still they may be fighting each other for a long time, so overall the situation could be quite good for Israel and the West.  If only Pres Obama could resist screwing that up too.


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